Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Fans of the blockbuster film “Inception” will recall corporate conman Leo DiCaprio’s dream-bending antics where he infiltrated the subconscious of his targets with implanted memories.
Mind control has long been the domain of Hollywood and science fiction, but new memory-implanting research on mice by Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists may be the first step in unlocking the mystery of false memory syndrome.
Using a technique called optogenetics, Nobel laureate and neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa and a team of MIT researchers manipulated individual cells in the mouse hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory formation, to make them responsive to light.
In the experiment, several mice were placed in a chamber glowing with reddish light and allowed to explore. The next day, they were placed in a second chamber and given electric shocks on their feet to encode a fear response. Scientists also shone light into their brains, activating memories of the first chamber.
When the mice were placed back in the first chamber, they froze, expecting shocks that never came. “We call this ‘incepting’ or implanting false memories in a mouse brain,” Tonagawa told the journal Science, which published the research.
He said powerful false memories in humans may be created in a similar way.
Humans are very imaginative animals. Independent of what is happening around you in the outside world, humans constantly have internal activity in the brain,” said Tonagawa. ”So, just like our mouse, it is quite possible we can associate what we happen to have in our mind with bad or good high-variance ongoing events.
“In other words, there could be a false association of what you have in your mind rather than what is happening to you.”
This becomes a serious problem for witnesses identifying criminals in a lineup or recalling certain events in court.
The case of Troy Davis, a Georgia Burger King employee who was executed in 2011 for the shooting death of a policeman, is among a number of cases that call into question the reliability of witness memory, particularly in death penalty proceedings. In many other cases, convictions based on eyewitness testimony have been overturned following the introduction of new DNA or other corroborating evidence.
Tonagawa said that by showing how false memory and genuine memory are based on almost identical brain mechanisms, the study may help prevent future cases of wrongful conviction.
“We hope our future findings along this line will further alert legislatures and legal experts how unreliable memory can be.”
Liz Fields is an Australian freelance journalist based in New York who has previously scribbled for Slate, ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald and more. Follow her on Twitter @lianzifieldsMore Liz Fields.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.